Review: #71741 Ninjago City Gardens
The third installment in the popular Ninjago City series follows in the footsteps of one of the greatest LEGO sets of all time — can it compare, and should you pick it up before it retires?
#70620 Ninjago City is sometimes described as “the greatest set ever made”, thanks to the vibrant colors, complex shapes, and play features that make the finished model really stand out. To mark the 10th anniversary of the LEGO Ninjago line, The LEGO Group has given us a beautiful urban garden to expand Ninjago City. Let’s find out whether #71741 Ninjago City Gardens can match or even surpass the well-deserved hype of its predecessor, and explore the creative building techniques hidden within the walls of this set!
About this set
The third set of the now famous Ninjago City line does not hold back — easily surpassing its predecessors with a whopping 5668 pieces — making it the 6th largest LEGO set currently available! Released in January 2021, this set will likely be retired in the next year or so.
#71741 Ninjago City Gardens is $299.99 (£264.99/299.99€) for 5668 pieces, it costs just $0.053 per part! Its predecessor, #70620 Ninjago City was priced at $299.99 (£264.99/299.99€), or $0.062 per part — but good luck finding it for double that price after it retired a few years ago; it’s a highly sought set on secondary markets.
Some other popular large sets for comparison purposes:
- #10294 Titanic is priced at $629.99 (£554.99 / 629.99€), or $0.069 per part.
- #75192 Millennium Falcon is priced at $799.99 (£699.99 / 799.99€), or $0.106 per part.
This only goes to highlight how not only how large this set is but how amazingly priced it is compared to other large similar sets. When building this set the value is one of the first things you will see stand out as we will come to discuss further!
Packaging and Instructions
As with large sets LEGO puts as much care into the packaging and instructions as they do with the set. Starting off with the gorgeous art highlighting the 10th anniversary we see LEGO put a lot of care into designing a box that accurately highlights the intricacies of this set. On the back we can see an exploded view of the set highlighting all the different rooms in set, emphasizing the scale. In an attempt to give more names to each minifigure we can see all of the minifigures included along with their name on the top of the box as a final attempt to sell on the value.
Aside from the box the contents show off the same level of detail. This set comes with 3 sets of instructions and a poster showcasing Ninjago Legacy characters. The pieces itself are spread across 26 bags with an additional bag of miscellaneous large pieces used across multiple sets. Immediately you can see that there is a very large number of color palettes used as each bag has different vibrant colors, drawing you in before the set is even built. In the first instruction manual the first few pages show off all the rooms that will be built in this set along with a Ninjago language translator to make out what all the words on the stickers are, putting you in a very good position to get excited and started.
It should come to no surprise that a large set has a lot of different builds and designs and unlike the repetitive nature of some of the other larger sets you are surprised with each bag you build. From the box alone you can see a variety of creative building techniques and the styles employed by designers to make the most out of this build but once you dig deeper into what you are building you get to appreciate the fine details used in this set. The first thing that stands out when looking at this set is both its scale and its vibrant colors. Standing at 58.2cm (22.9 inches) tall this set will likely tower over anything else you have ever built so make sure you have space to display this set as this is significantly taller than a standard shelf height.
To not ruin the surprise while still going through what the set contains, we will be providing a high-level overview of the builds then jumping into some stand out building techniques employed leaving the hidden intricacies a mystery for you to explore.
Anyone who has built any sets in the Ninjago City line will be familiar with the layered depth pattern used to simulate water. By using a variety of greens in different hues and black covered by a transparent blue we get some very beautiful water with varying depth, where colors get darker the further we are away from the shore. With foliage drifting in the water and grass and rocks building up near the banks of the city we very much get a vibrant aquatic vibe to this set. Small rocks of various shapes and sizes help build this natural feel to this water as rather than being a rigid square we now have varied shapes of the surface water alongside the varied shapes of the depth.
In the heart of this set lies a big tree. This tree spans across two levels with roots, leaves and branches sprawling all over the set. Alongside the water, this tree adds a very rustic feel to this set to highlight Ninjago City Gardens being one with nature. This tree juxtaposes the concrete city not just in shape but in color as well, one would think that given the nature of a city being a metaphorical “concrete jungle” the city would be dull and the nature brings out colors but this set does the opposite. The tree is a more muted color than the rest of the vibrant colors in the city adding a nice complimentary contrast to the build. At the base of the is a bench which allows the citizens visiting Ninjago City Gardens to have a seat around this old historic tree and bask in the sights and sounds of the city. The designers of this set used a wide variety of building techniques to build this tree and give it an organic feel. The mix of rounded technic pieces besides square bricks gives the tree an unpredictable erratic feel with roots and branches sprawling all over. Perched on one of the branches if you look very closely is a small dove in a nest! The designers creatively used a lifesaver piece in brown to give a round nest feel, being creative yet simple at the same time.
Second Level Walkway
To gain access to the buildings on the second there is a walkway that the minifigures can walk on to navigate this level. Oddly however there is no actual way to get up to the second level in this set. The lack of stairs, ramps or even elevator has you asking the question “how did they get up there?”. Logic aside, the walkways act as a nice divide between the levels as you can lift up the entire floor from the walkway to reveal the level below. Through use of both flat and stud pieces this follows the similar design philosophy used in modular sets that let you see the contents of each room below. The side of the walkways are decorated with banners with colorful advertisements and transparent blue lights to simulate a lantern. At corner of the walkway in front of the tree is the centerpiece railing adorned with a variety of different shapes colors and patterns. A creative use of a skeleton torso on either side of the corner allows for a very unique angling to create a curved effect out of a straight piece.
First Floor Buildings
Of all the levels in this set the first is definitely the busiest with two story buildings at every corner of the garden. When looking at these houses the first thing that stands out is its shape. While most modular buildings and houses come in a uniform square or rectangular shape these instead come in a trapezoidal shape allowing it to stand out right when you first see it. These shapes are built using a variety of hinges of various sizes to turn a straight wall into a slanted well to give this set character. Alongside the shape, and is something that we will see as a common theme as we move up the levels, are the colors used. Ninjago City is always a vibrant build and the gardens are no different with various shades and hues lining the first level.
The first of the buildings is what can best be described as a bank. Hidden in the floorboards is a variety of ingots and goodies and in the room itself are an array of valuables such as golden chalices and a trident. On the wall on the side is a beautifully built bookshelf, a design that LEGO has opted use in multiple builds with jumper pieces as drawers with knobs and 1×2 tiles and bricks on their side to be book spines. Two funny inclusions are a bust that can only be described as a bust of the “Monopoly Man” from the popular board game Monopoly and a small scale used to measure out weight of gold. Looking at the outside we see sword hilts lining the outer wall overlooking the water and golden party hats ornating the top of lanterns. Something the designers always do well is simulating roof shingles and with this room we see a beautifully built awning full of shape and texture. On the side of the wall rather than having purely horizontal bricks to provide the wall texture we long tiles placed vertically to emulate wood boards adding different shapes and even slight depth to the wall.
Situated right above the bank is a “Tea Time Balcony”. This open room has everything you need to give off a relaxing vibe. From The balcony overlooking the water to the tapestries on the wall, visitors to this tea house will feel the tranquility that this room seeks to provide. As will be mentioned a few times getting to this room can be a challenge, the only way to access this is to climb a ladder from the level below and enter through a door. This does not seem very natural and despite understanding why they focused on this given space constraints it seeks. As you enter up into this room on one side is a door that you can enter and on the other side is a very large ornate patterned window. This window when placed on one face of the trapezoidal structure is immediately noticeable to the eye, not just because of its shape but also because the contrasting use of grey against a brown border. To me my favorite addition to this tea room is not even inside but along the outer wall. A series of paint rollers, light saber hilts and ski poles are used to build out a narrow set of pipes running along the outer wall, creatively building the urban feel to this set. The choice of using a white and brown color palette on top of the sand green and brown colors of the building below it helps separate the two building and makes it very distinguishable that these are indeed two different levels within one level.
On the opposite side of the gardens sits two similarly shaped structures in the Take-Out kitchen and Ninjago fan apartment. On the ground floor a very small kitchen is built using the same angled building techniques we experienced previously. The color palette unlike the sand green of the other floor takes influence from the “Tea Time Balcony” by opting for white and brown. Here we can see how had the “Tea Time Balcony” say on top of the Take-Out kitchen rather than the bank we would have easily mistaken this for one level due to the striking similarities. Bar the color however the designers took a large number of creative liberties to differentiate it. At the base of the structure is a sewage pipe that is built using a technic socket piece, what stands out most however is the use of a Superhero Power blast in light transparent blue to build up water gushing out of this pipe, a technique I have never seen before.
Despite there not being a television in the kitchen there is a satellite antenna built using a car grill perching on the top side of the kitchen and lantern hanging right outside the door. The designers used interesting techniques for this lamp opting to use a gemstone piece as a lightbulb and a steering wheel as the housing. On the two counters is my favorite design decision to this room, the choice of using half of a book to create a rounded counter. Despite being unable to attach any items due to the lack of studs this clean look adds curves to what is an otherwise rounded building. Rather than waste the whole book however they used the front cover of the book to create an angled awning at another ordering counter really highlighting the varied approaches to awnings in this set. Some may prefer a standardized architectural design decision when it comes to this rooms but I for one welcome the varied and unique looks as not only does it make each room unique but makes for a great building experience.
Perched on top of the kitchen is a Ninjago Fan apartment. From the outside the mix of yellows and browns complement each other well with a few occasional black pieces acting as strong accents. An interesting design choice here is to use 2 different window patterns, one a standard glass pane window and another opting to use fencing pieces on its side to give a barred window look. The gold of the bars contrasts the colors of the exterior walls very well allowing it to stand out. When shifting to the interior we see a similar approach to the “Tea Time Balcony” taken where the only way up is through a set of ladders.
Unlike the former however this path is an injury risk as there is a large non fenced off hole in the middle of the room that one can easily fall down through. The interior of this room follows the standard bedroom that LEGO builds into their modular with a bed as the focal point and a few miscellaneous pieces of décor in the room; in this case a TV, lava lamp and a handful of objects on the shelf.
Second Floor Buildings
Moving up a level we are met with the first walkway. These walkways are an iconic piece of Ninjago City architecture with advertising donning the railings that keep citizens safe on upper levels. As mentioned earlier it is still bizarre that the citizens have no way of getting to the second floor in this set however we can assume they use Ninja magic to whisk themselves up. Unlike in previous Ninjago City sets this set opts to use transparent blue minifigure heads as lanterns unlike the transparent orange used in past sets which is an interesting twist.
Unlike the first floor we only see two buildings on this second level, the first of which is a bright blue ice cream store. Littered with signage and posters it is very evident that minifigures can come get a refreshing snack here. The designers were very creative with this building using some unexpected building techniques. If you take a close look at the awning for example you can see that in order to get the desired roofing texture designers used an array of interlocked cleavers. Around the back we see yet another awning that uses even more bizarre design choices; controllers.
This design choice is used a few times in this set but each time it doesn’t cease to amaze me how with a bit of creativity any piece can be used for what you want. The inside of this building is rather tight fitting at most two minifigures, one behind the counter and one purchasing. The ice cream itself is just a series of stickers however the mix of both physical parts and stickers gives off the illusion of a very crowded store.
Despite there being no stairs to access the second floor there is a set of stairs to access the third floor behind this ice cream store and if you look very closely underneath the stairs you can see an outdoor AC unit tucked outside. Of all the electronics built in this set the AC unit is my favorite. The creative use of a turntable from the bottom really helps give off the look of a fan housed inside a metallic housing.
On the other side of the second floor sits Chen’s Noodle house. At first glance the first thing that stands out Despite an impressive exterior the interior is very plain and lacking having only one stove and a table. With two seats in the corner the citizens can sit as they watch a chef sitting in the window bay cook their meal for them.
This window bay build was a little finnicky to put together having broken apart a few times until all the pieces are put together locking it in place making it a little unstable in design. Compared to the crab restaurant in #70620 Ninjago City this Noodle house feels bare.
The first thing you see when looking at this structure is the use of a minifigure as signage. By inverting the legs and angling the figure backwards a lifelike statue welcomes all guests into the restaurant. To me what stands out even more is what sits behind and to the side of the statue, the awning. The designers have used hot dog pieces in black and clips at the bottom curves to give a rounded awning full of texture and shape. Having seen LEGO use this piece numerous times now for varying techniques I am starting to feel that this hot dog piece might be one of the most versatile pieces out there when it comes to working with curves. To the side of the awning is a series of pipes which again emphasizes the urban nature of this build.
Third Floor Buildings
As we move higher up Ninjago City Gardens the buildings generally get smaller however the third floor is an exception. While number of buildings may be less the majority of this floor is comprised of one large room, the Ninjago Museum of History. The largest building in this set doesn’t hold back when it comes to varied building techniques, with curves, angles and squares this building is definitely the most creative. The first stand out design choice doesn’t even appear as part of the building but the railing. When the designer could have just used a railing piece, they instead opted to use handcuffs and clips to create an ornate railing. In the center of the railings are two flowerbeds adding a bright variety of nature colors in blue and green to an otherwise black railing, adding a strong yet elegant contrast.
The museum comprises of two rooms which can be looked into very clearly from the outside due to the abundance of windows. A variety of different sized windows and staggered orientation allows this room to get a ton of light! Through use of gold and orange pieces against a backdrop of yellow this museum gives a very vibrant feel almost as if emulating the sun. As the standout piece of décor ornating the exterior of this museum we see a bright red roller coaster piece. The use of this piece seems like such a bizarre decision at first when you see it in this set but once put together fits very nicely almost acting as an arch over compassing the rest of the city. This may be a stretch but the use of colors, this roller coaster track then a dragon head sticker on a transparent purple piece of signage almost gives off the illusion that this museum is shaped like a dragon with all its curves and colors.
Moving inside this museum there is so much detail it can be difficult to fit it all in one page, from the use of a flower stem as a turnstile, a postcard rack and a hot dog the lobby has a plethora of details and that’s even before we get into the museum. A nice touch in this lobby is the CCTV cameras to ensure that everyone who is entering and exiting is caught on tape, something that is important when you remember Ninjago City Gardens has some unfavorable inhabitants.
The museum itself has a ton of artefacts that highlight the 10-year anniversary of this line. By picking art, weapons and even a scepter that were relevant to past sets this museum pays homage to a decade long success of this theme and is sure to bring a nostalgic remembrance to those who have collected sets in this line over the years.
Aside from this museum there is a second apartment building included in this set. Compared to the first apartment this one is significantly smaller and looks more like an artist’s loft than a student apartment. The exterior of this room makes use of a mosaic tile like pattern with alternating greens complimenting each other nicely. As should be no surprise once again a new pattern is used for roofing here with the roof shingling above the window comprising of alternating height wedges. On one side of the room is a balcony. At first glance it looks like the designers used a common balcony curved piece to create the shape but despite having the piece available instead opted to use a clip piece with a car grill to create the same effect, a bizarre design decision to build something that looks almost identical to a piece that already exists using multiple pieces.
When looking at the final level of Ninjago City Gardens the first thing that stands out is the sheer height of this level. While half of this level comprises of a Zen Garden and the roof of the museum the other half is levels upon levels of rooms to make up the satellite tower. The base of this satellite tower is home to “The Ninja Zone”. This relaxation room is packed to the brim with electronics from a radio to television but most importantly a brick-built arcade. This arcade is a very underrated build in this room as you can actually push the controls to move the characters up and down on the screen. When you remove the front panel, you can see how a small number of technic pieces can allow for a lot of motion even in a small 2×3 build. The lounging armchair in the corner is modeled after a Laz-E-Boy recliner really emphasizing on the comfort factor.
On the back of this room is a ladder that can be raised and lowered to either block off the entrance to this level of act as the only means of access to this floor. As is a theme in all Ninjago City sets there are a set of custom movie posters beside this entrance, these can be interchanged with a variety of posters included in this set and can be swapped with posters included in #70620 Ninjago City and #10232 Palace Cinema as well. This open windowed room is built using arches and a set of railings using what was initially a set of “glasses” on Brick Headz sets allows for items to be clipped on the outside to add shape and pattern to the railings.
The most interesting attachment and build here however has to be the Koi on the side of the building. By using such a variety of pieces from the Legs of Mario to super battle droid torso and leaf pieces the designers were able to build what may be my favorite brick-built animal to date. Despite being so small this is immediately distinguishable and overlooks the levels below it.
Stacked on top of “The Ninja Zone” is a room that is hidden away from the general public and at first glance from the exterior does not look like a room. Aptly named the hidden room this room the interior is little more than a set of monitors. Where this room really stands out is the exterior patterns. Two rows of triangular patterns in blue against a backdrop of black gives this tower a very standout effect. By twisting the second row of panels over by 45 degrees the designers give this tower a twisting look to allow it to stand out even further.
This is achieved by using a turntable and ensuring that a triangle is used rather than squares. By using triangles, the top of one level locks very well between the edges of the triangles above it. Sitting at the top of this tower a transparent purple crown tops off this look giving it a futuristic science fiction feel that this city tries to give off. Sat at the very top of this tower and makes up the highest point in this city is the satellite array. By using the SNOT (Studs Not On Top) technique throughout this tower and the satellite array it gives what normally would be a flat surface a textured surface. When the designers could have used 8 1×1 bricks stacked on top of each other instead the use of SNOT makes for a beautiful “crown” to what is already a super tall building.
Smack dab in the middle of the upper level is the roof of the museum. This glass ceiling is put together by clipping two halves together which unfortunately makes it fragile as the middle is the bottom of two bricks pressed together and thus aren’t connected. Despite this this is beautifully built complimenting the colors of the museum below it. Sitting in the middle of this ceiling is a brick-built fossil of a creature that I cannot identify, potentially a dinosaur, potentially mythical or just made up, either way still detailed and pretty. Building upon the natural feel of the level below it the front of this roof takes advantage of curves to make what could otherwise be a blocking ceiling super rounded. Unlike other levels this ceiling does not slot in by lifting it up or lowering it onto studs below it, instead it is slid in from the front which adds to the slightly unstable feel to this piece if placed on its own.
The final addition to the main set is the Rooftop Zen Garden and boy does this tiny build deliver. Everything from the colors to texture this tiny 8×8 build is packed with details. By using SNOT on the corners, the designers are able to add a slight depth by placing tiles on their side to act as the corner wooden posts holding the roof up. Hard to tell due to the railings and steps you can see that this house sits on wooden stilts, a questionable architectural decision given that there is no flooding risk or needing to artificially elevate the floor however it looks unique besides all the evenly built floors below it. If you look closely underneath the house you may even see a little secret. Sitting in front of the garden is yet more nature, something that should not come at a surprise given that this set is named Ninjago City Gardens. This tree comes in the form of a cherry blossom in full bloom. By connecting the leaves to the branches, the way this tree does the designers are able to pack a ton of foliage in a small space and angle them to make the tree fuller of volume.
What should come to NO surprise when talking about rooms now should be my mentioning of yet another pattern for the roof. For the final roof in this set the designers here opted to use the tops of treasure chests angled at different heights to give an inverted arch not only adding more structural strength to the roof but yet again another pattern. The ridges of the treasure chests even give off a shingles effect to this roof. As always, I am surprised by how something as simple as a roof or awning can be made to look so different in so many ways.
Aside from just building the city you also get to build a small temple island adorned with a red pagoda placed on a 16×32 baseplate. This surprisingly large addition acts as a standalone piece that can be connected to Ninjago city gardens and despite being not using too many pieces is a nice addition to the set. Similar to the main set this mini set takes advantage of the water building techniques to provide water depth and builds a contoured island in greens and greys in the center. At the back of the temple is a statue that adds as an extra minifigure to this set however is not counted as an official minifigure in the count above. The use of angled bridges from the path really makes this Water Temple feel apart from the rest of the city while being so close at the same time. By being a separate piece, you can choose to place this temple wherever you like on the sides of your Ninjago City sets as the foot paths follow all of the path widths of the Ninjago City Gardens and other Ninjago City sets. The centerpiece of this temple is the pagoda itself. Through use of varied pieces, we both get pillars that are rounded and squared off at the same time adding varying depth in the process. With the build being mirrored across each of the four edges you can view this building from any direction and see all the beauties that it contains. A piece included in this set that I have not seen in a while is the megaphone piece which first introduced in 1982 as a speaker and/or gun. Instead by using it as a pillar we can get a rounded piece with lots of ribs and textures right at the top before the final roof adding yet more depth to this build.
As much as I dislike stickers, I understand the rationale to drive more and more sets to use stickers over printed part. If the lack of stickers instead drove LEGO to have to be less detailed with this set or instead opt to raise prices by even up to 10% to match production cost rises, I feel everyone would be onboard with stickers. This set, by being a detailed set, comes with a whopping 66 stickers across 3 sticker sheets. Everything from clear transparent backed to solid-colored stickers are used in this set to add the much-needed level of detail that enhances this set a little bit more than the piece selection already does.
This set comes with a whopping 20 minifigures! Along with 1 robot and 1 robot to litter the scenery. This is an amazing haul of figures for a set of this size. Once again when comparing this to other larger sets you can see that not only is the piece count better for the price but so is the minifigure count. This set contains a wide variety of figures from heroes, to villain to civilians. All of which are detailed and printed. Of the minifigures in this set ALL but 3 minifigures are exclusive to this set adding an extra level of draw to the minifigures.
The heroes in this set includes all 6 Ninjago Ninjas along with Sensei Wu. Each of the characters have their own unique spin to them following outfit themes. Jay, Cole and Nya don urban attire to blend in with civilians. Zane and Kai kitted in their Legacy Ninja suits (with an additional spare suit for Jay). Lloyd comes as a young child version (not questioning how this age gap works in Universe but I won’t question it). Finally, Sensei Wu, likely the most desirable of them all, comes in a Pearl Gold 10th anniversary color. All of these minifigures with the exception of Legacy Kai are unique to this set making them all very rare!
Despite the large hero count there are only three villains in this set. These are Ronin – Legacy, The Mechanic and Cece the robber. The latter of these are exclusive to just this set with the former existing in only two sets highlighting the exclusiveness of these figures. Each minifigure is printed full of detail, including not just torso prints but leg prints as well!
Of all the minifigures included the majority are the civilians that litter Ninjago City Garden. All of the civilians in this set are exclusive to Ninjago City Gardens. Of the minifigures included the majority are named filler civilians like Hai the ice cream store merchant and Christina who lives in the Ninjago fan apartment. Two standout civilians that were added are not filler; these being Misako – Legacy and Clutch Powers – Legacy. For anyone not familiar, Clutch Powers was a character introduced in February 2010 as the protagonist in the movie LEGO: The Adventures of Clutch Powers. In this movie Clutch Powers is the greatest LEGO explorer ever so it is fitting that he is exploring and visiting Ninjago City Gardens in search of treasure!
As #71741 Ninjago City Gardens is the third set in the Ninjago City series, it would be doing this set a disservice if we did not see how it stands up when all sets in this line are displayed together. The sets definitely complement each other very well; they each build on the same aesthetic while having a unique charm. Unfortunately, both of the previous Ninjago City sets are no longer available to purchase from LEGO, so you will need to find a used copy or a sealed set for a steep markup.
When a set comes with over 5000 pieces and the price tag that it does you have high expectations but this set does not disappoint. Everything from the varied minifigures, bountiful varied building techniques and piece inclusion this set is a worthy successor of what many deem as LEGO’s best ever set. With the price point this set comes at, even if you have not ever owned Ninjago City sets this is one that is definitely worth a pick up. Being priced so well makes this set worth the price tag associated to it.
Even though it is not quite as good as the original Ninjago City, this set offers a great value and has a great building experience due to a wide range of building techniques. That’s why it still manages to earn our coveted “Must Have” (5/5 stars) rating. With this set potentially retiring this year and having seen how quickly the Ninjago City sets in the past have doubled in price, I would strongly consider picking up this set before it is too late!